Refusal of Service…
Here’s the thing about the kind of religion I profess and try to practice: it’s about being so Spiritually connected with our creator that we do everything possible to reflect our creator’s best qualities.
As a Christian, my religion sees Jesus as the ultimate earthly expression of our Creator; what matters is Jesus’ relationship with God, much more than Jesus’ gender, age or race. In other words, Jesus shows us all how to live, love and get along with one another in the way that best reflects the one in whose image we created.
When we were created, at least in the original retelling of the story, two genders, male and female, were required to fully express God’s image. This, I believe, is the truest version of the story; the second retelling that has one gender as a subset of the other seems to be a version of the story that has the Patriarchy’s hand-print all over it. Gender becomes a power issue; blame is assigned; dominance is established; women become subservient to men and any pain or suffering is their fault. Like I said, it’s the patriarchy’s version of truth; I believe that the most authentic understanding of the female-male gender assignment is the one that says we were both created in the Creator’s image simultaneously. The upshot of all this is that issues of sexuality, marriage and who gets to have power and authority in religious circles have been subverted by people, mostly men, with a particular agenda that is a combination of conscious choice and historical relationship.
For me, as a Christian, there are certain rules that have been established as the fundamental way to follow, honour and serve God. The basic standard is laid out in the Ten Commandments, the first official expression of what God expects of men and women. Those Ten Commandments are largely relational; they inform our basic relationship with God and with one another; they are also, for the most part, gender neutral; while one instance offers a specific male-female order, it can easily be read the other way. Its intent, to avoid wanting something that isn’t yours, is actually stated twice, once for stuff and once for people; in that respect it seems to be emphasizing God’s desire that we keep our hands on what’s ours, and to not want what isn’t. That exception aside, the Ten Commandments are gender neutral; they apply to men and women alike. Oh, and they came directly from God. Ten of them. No more, no less. Notice that not one talks about marriage, by the way.
These clearly stated rules are then built on and expanded with a mind-boggling array of instructions and laws that cover everything from who to have sex with to how to deal with a mouldy house. Like the second retelling of the establishment of two genders, these additional laws seem to be male interpretations of God’s will; somewhere there is a deep truth that reflects the best of the original Ten Commandments, but it takes a lot of digging to get there.
Through the Prophets and other wise writers, God’s original vision for humanity becomes clearer; God wants justice, not blind obedience, honest works of love and kindness, not lip-service, and, above all, to be loved purely and simply. That’s the core of the Ten Commandments; that’s the heart of God’s expectations for God’s earthly, expressed images. As it turns out, Jesus is the highest and truest expression of those values.
Jesus teaches us to love one another, models how to behave and take care of one another, and challenges us to be our best selves and forgives us when we blow it. Jesus sets the bar high; so high that not even death was too high a price to pay for our benefit. While His death and resurrection are central to Christianity, they aren’t the focus of this discussion, so I’ll stick with the premise of His being the ideal expression of what God expects of us.
And finally, to the point of this whole discussion.
When we read the Bible carefully, honestly and contextually, we realize that what God wants for us it to be in relationship with one another and with God. That’s the bottom line. We build on that basic premise with the idea that, just as God loves each of us, because we are unique expressions of God in whatever gender or gender variation we might be, we are also called to love one another. Adding one more layer to that is a simple set of laws that points us to how we are to treat one another; it’s not a series of behaviours or quid-pro-quo actions, it’s a call to love God first and foremost, and to treat one another fairly, without resorting to violence, whether physical or emotional. It’s a call for justice, it’s a call for love, it’s a call for taking care of one another, it’s a call that’s expressed in Jesus.
Notice, however, that there are a whole pile of laws that deal with specific behaviours, sexuality, marriage, women’s rights, religious forms and a whole raft of piddly details. Yet all of those come after the Ten Commandments and few of those reflect the core idea of who are as being created male and female, each an equal representation of God’s image. That means that a lot of stuff we think of as being God’s will is actually the product of a few biased people, usually men, wishing to further their agenda. Marriage, for instance, is spoken of in the Bible, but there is no clear consensus of what it is, beyond it being some kind of a deal between a man and a woman. Love? It doesn’t enter the marriage picture. How we understand marriage today is not what was meant by marriage then; even the basic loving relationships we take for granted today weren’t understood as such when the Bible was written. Thus, we can look at marriage as either being informed by a series of human, mostly male, interpreted and serving rules that have a nominally God related content, or as a relational thing that brings two people together in love. That’s how I view it. Jesus calls us to love one another as we are loved, and as God loves us; that’s the highest and purest form of marriage if we are to follow God’s rules of relationship.
So, if I want to follow the Bible and be a good Christian I would serve you in my bake shop (if I were a baker and not a minister) if you are Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Queer or Transgender. It’s my Biblical duty; I am called to love you as you would be loved. Since I am a minister, I will marry you, if you ask, because that is a sign of your commitment to one another. And whether or not you are married, if you are together in love with someone, or single, or searching, or just figuring things out, I will love, accept and affirm you, and whatever service I offer, I will offer to you the same way I would offer it to anyone else. After all, you’re not sinning, so you’re not going against what I believe God expects of us.
However, if I want to follow the Bible and be a good Christian I would not serve you if you walked into my shop wearing a Baseball, Quidditch or any sports cap. I would not serve you because you would be going against God’s simple relational rule to put God first. That’s it, plain and simple. When your sports, or hobby or whatever you do causes you to miss church, or spend billions of dollars pursuing everything but what God really calls us to do, then I’m sorry, but I can’t serve you. Period.
If you walk into my shop with a lottery ticket in hand, or as the president or CEO of a company that profits at the expense of it’s employees, if you in any way put money ahead of God, I cannot serve you. Gambling is the ultimate expression of wanting what isn’t yours; it’s greed and desire incarnate. It creates far more social ills than it selves. Corporate greed is just as bad, if not worse, because it hides itself behind walls that blind us to the fact that it’s just a few individuals taking advantage of countless others for their ill-gotten gains. No. I will not serve greedy, self-serving people who have no idea of the harm they are causing.
Do I need to go on? Should I serve you if you refuse to share your wealth for the common good? Should I serve you when you deny justice to the least, or ignore the stranger or use your power to help only yourself. No. If I am to be true to what God expects of us, then I cannot, in all good conscience. Sin is sin; when you sin willingly, I can’t serve you. That’s all there is to it,
Of course, having said that, I have to conclude that if I were to deny anyone anything I can do because they go against what I believe, then I would have to deny all services to myself first. To say that you are not worthy of my time, talents or treasures simply because I think you are doing something that goes against what I believe is completely contrary to what I think is right.
As a human being, created as one particular image of our Creator, I believe that I am called by that loving Creator to love as I am loved from above. It doesn’t matter what you believe for me to love you. It doesn’t matter what you do in order for me to serve you. Even if you don’t love me in return, I will never stop loving you. And even if you refuse to serve me, I promise never to refuse to serve you just because you don’t believe or do, what I do.